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Student research assistant needed for study of transportation finance in California

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  • asha.weinstein@sjsu.edu
    I am seeking one or two student research assistants to help with a policy research project identifying and evaluating potential new or expanded sources of
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 16, 2005
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      I am seeking one or two student research assistants to help with a policy research project identifying and evaluating potential new or expanded sources of transportation revenue for the state of California.

      This job offers excellent experience and training in policy research, as well as a chance to learn about state infrastructure finance in general and transportation finance in particular, a topic of great relevance to transportation planners at all levels of government.

      The project is funded by Caltrans, through the Mineta Transportation Institute at SJSU.  I am heading the research team, which will include Professor Jennifer Dill of Portland State University, one or more students at Portland State, and Dr. Todd Goldman of the City University of New York.

      The remainder of this email describes the project, the tasks the research assistant(s) will conduct, required qualifications for the position, and application procedures.

      Best regards,

      Asha Weinstein

      Assistant Professor
      Department of Urban and Regional Planning
      San José State University
      One Washington Square
      San Jose, CA 95192-0185
      email: asha.weinstein@...
      phone: 408-924-5853
      web page: http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/weinstein/



      If the state of California is to retain its economic position in the global economy and accommodate a projected near doubling of the current 35 million population by 2040, significant investments will be required to maintain, operate, upgrade, and expand the state’s transportation facilities. Yet the current statewide finance system, which is underpinned by the state and federal motor vehicle fuel taxes (the “gas tax”), is unlikely to provide sufficient revenue to address all of these competing demands. It is therefore important to begin identifying and evaluating potential new or expanded sources of revenue.

      Many states are taking steps to address similar challenges. Washington State recently approved an increase in its gasoline tax of 9.5 cents over four years.  Missouri not long ago redirected a portion of its sales tax on motor vehicles to road construction, and shifted the funding basis for its motor vehicle agency away from fuel taxes and toward its general fund.  Rhode Island recently approved a major transportation bond measure, and New York State and Oregon are considering similar actions.  The Minnesota legislature may soon allow cities to impose a fee on landowners based on the amount of traffic their property generates. A bill in that legislature would allow cities to charge a “transportation utility fee” based on the number of vehicle trips generated by each property. Fees would be collected via utility bills, and the revenue would be used for road maintenance and improvements.  Illinois Governor Blagojevich has twice proposed a computer software tax to help fund the Chicago Transit Authority and mass transit in the city’s downtown. Blagojevich estimates that “closing the software loophole” would raise $65 million annually. A Connecticut lawmaker has recently proposed that a $250 tax be imposed on SUVs to help pay for public transportation initiatives across the state.   In Oregon, the state is testing technology to charge a per-mile fee collected at the gas pump as a substitute for gas taxes, and the state has already shifted to collecting a weight-mile from heavy duty trucks, instead of diesel fuel taxes.

      This research project will clarify the best options that the California state government can adopt in order to ensure an adequate future stream of transportation revenues.  The goal of the project is to provide Caltrans with the factual information and assessment of alternatives needed to advise the Administration regarding the broader issue of how the state can best raise transportation revenues directly and/or enable local jurisdictions to raise revenues independently.  

      The study will have three components:

      - TASK 1: Research and feasibility analysis.  The research team will begin by conducting a review of recent and currently progressing studies across the nation to identify revenue-generating strategies that have potential for California.  The researchers will then begin to assess the advantages of each disadvantages of each, including an estimate of the potential revenues that they could generate in California.  To perform this analysis, the research team will develop a set of criteria against which to assess each proposed revenue source.   To conclude task 1, the research team will use this analysis to prepare a short list of the three to six most promising revenue options to be tested in Task 2.

      - TASK 2: Public opinion research. The three to six most promising financing procedures will then be tested for public acceptability with a scientifically created, highly reliable, statewide sample of residents, which will be accurate to the sub-state geographic level.

      - TASK 3: Final analysis and report writing. The research team will integrate the findings from the research carried out in Tasks 1 and 2 to provide a final assessment of the most promising transportation revenue generation alternatives that might be considered at the state level.


      The exact duties that the research assistant(s) undertake will be determined as the project proceeds, but will most likely include:

      - An extensive literature review about state transportation finance in California as well as throughout the country
      - Phone or in-person interviews with key stakeholders within California, as well as phone interviews requesting information from government staff in other states
      - Report writing
      - Project management


      Applicants should have well-developed skills in the following areas:

      - Library research
      - Ability to understand and summarize the key ideas in research articles, even when the research assistant is unfamiliar with the topic and methods used
      - Project management
      - Excellent ability to communicate both in writing and speaking
      - Ability to work independently

      In addition, the applicant should be available to travel throughout the Bay Area as needed to visit libraries or to perform interviews.


      The research assistant(s) will begin work about August 1, 2005, and continue through about April 15, 2006.  There is also potential for one assistant to work on the first phase of the project only, though December.

      The exact hours worked per week can be negotiated, but will likely average 10 hours per week throughout most of the project, with the option of working additional hours.

      Salary is $15/hour.


      To apply, please email the following to me at asha.weinstein@...:

      1) A short statement explaining your interest in and qualifications for the position
      2) A CV
      3) Names and contact information for three references

      Deadline: I will begin reviewing applications as of Monday, July 25, 2005.  Later applications will be accepted until the position is filled, but priority goes to those received by July 25.

      If you have any questions about the position, please feel free to contact me at asha.weinstein@....
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